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July 2, 2020

Ordnance Survey Aims to Take on Google, Apple Maps with New Free Data Hub, APIs

"We've removed the technology barrier and the pricing barrier"

By claudia glover

For businesses looking to make use of a comprehensive geospatial data set — updated 20,000 times daily and offering over 500 million features — the Ordnance Survey (OS) has just stepped firmly up to the plate. 

The national mapping agency, founded in 1791, is living firmly in the present with the launch this week of a new geospatial Data Hub, that lets developers access the organisation’s “MasterMap” along with other data through a new set of six APIs; up to £1,000-worth of it for free every month.

The Ordnance Survey hopes to make its data sets a compelling offering for businesses developing apps requiring location data that might otherwise bake Google Maps and Apple Maps into their applications. (It says a six-month trial period saw 14,448 OS OpenData downloads, 15.5 million map tile requests for its OS Maps API and 1.5 million OS Features API requests.)

The Ordnance Survey’s Chris Chambers, Head of PSGA (Public Sector Geospatial Agreement) told Computer Business Review: “This basically gives developers acccess to the MasterMap of Great Britain.

“That’s about half-a-billion features, and it’s updated 20,000 times a day. It’s really comprehensive, highly accurate. It’s used by all the big utilities insurance companies, central government and local government, emergency services, large delivery companies.

“It’s really well used, but we don’t have enough small companies using the data. In the past there’s been quite a lot data management overheads, so what we’ve done is created a developer-specific offer. It’s a new platform for developers to access the data really quickly.

“There’s six APIs that allow you to do everything from create a background map, to really query the geospatial data, click on and check a building’s footprint, etc. OS data has never been easier to access: we’ve done loads of guides, code snippets on Stack Overflow, GitHub etc.”

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How much data will a developer or their CIO get for free? “We estimate that 70-80% of our existing API users will never have to pay for any data. We want to have a really long tail of developers who never have to pay any money to Ordance Survey; to support start-ups and entrepreneurs it’s all self-serve. We’ve removed the technology barrier and the pricing barrier.”

Read This! UK Ordnance Survey to use Mobileeyes EyeQ to Build Detailed Maps

With the Data Hub, core location identifiers like UPRNs (Unique Property Reference Numbers), USRNs (Unique Street Reference Numbers) and Topographic Object Identifiers (TOID) can now be used in conjunction with each other to provide detailed safer routes for cyclists, or to map out trees, according to the UK’s Geospatial Strategy.

Businesses may also have their own ideas, whether that’s across the property technology sector, logistics sector, or more.

Today’s API release mean that these maps can overlay and correspond to each other, giving the maximum amount of information about the UK, its houses, businesses and public and private spaces, right down to property footprint, including height. This release is part of a wider plan to create a huge, national location data framework, as stated in the UK’s Geospatial Strategy:

“Our vision is that by 2025 the UK will have a coherent national location data framework. Location data will be the unifying connection between things, systems, people and the environment. Valuable data that currently sits locked in silos will be easy to access and combine securely to create new insights, new services and new businesses that are almost unimaginable today.

“Everyone will feel the benefits of being at the leading edge of the data revolution in our homes, towns, regions and globally. UK expertise will be sought after internationally, and our flourishing location-enabled digital economy will export its knowledge, products and services worldwide”.

Pro-tip: want to do some free visualisation with the geospatial data from the OS Data Hub? Uber’s open source, a “data-agnostic, high-performance web-based application for visual exploration of large-scale geolocation data sets” might do the trick. 

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